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Ultramodern genetic sequencing machine puts research in high gear at Texas A&M

A new sequencing system — the Illumina HiSeq 2500v4 — with Dr. Charles Johnson. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

The latest in genomic technologies along with new, spacious facilities has put genetic sequencing into high gear at Texas A&M University in College Station, officials said.

“The addition of our new sequencing system — the Illumina HiSeq 2500v4 — will allow researchers across Texas A&M to generate 40 percent more data in half the time and for the same cost as our system from two years ago,” said Dr. Charles Johnson, director of Genomics and Bioinformatics, and managing director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Genomic Systems Engineering at Texas A&M.

The Texas A&M AgriLife genomics and bioinformatics service began in 2010 and, with its use of top-of-the-line sequencing systems and a team of highly experienced scientists, has become a go-to facility for researchers who need the latest in next generation sequencing technology and bioinformatics expertise across the Texas A&M University System, the state and the world, Johnson said.

“In addition to working with hundreds of faculty across the Texas A&M System, we currently are working with researchers in 20 countries,” he said.

Two years ago, when the center obtained its first Illumina HiSeq 2500, Johnson said that model of the machine had the potential to “sequence the equivalent of the human genome in one day for as little as $1,000, whereas it took more than 13 years to do the original human genome project and cost $2.7 billion.”

The new system can now sequence the equivalent of five human genomes in less than two days at the same cost of the slightly older system.

“In this period when technology is changing at such a staggering pace, an ever-improving and expanding genomic technology unit such as AgriLife has ensures that we stay in the forefront of genomics research,” said Dr. Craig Nessler, AgriLife Research director, College Station.

Johnson said the most recent version of the sequencing technology will allow faculty to do bigger and more statistically powerful studies for the same cost.

“The cost savings from this purchase to those with funded genomics grants will be well in excess of the cost of the new system,” he added.

The funds to purchase the $740,000 HiSeq came primarily from commitments from long-term academic and industry clients, Johnson said.

Along with the new sequencing equipment, the center recently moved to a new facility in south College Station, quadrupling the previous laboratory and office space.

“We have greatly increased our high throughput sample handling capacity as well,” Johnson said. “And we also greatly expanded our bioinformatics capabilities through hiring additional bioinformatics staff and partnering with the faculty of the Center for Bioinformatics and Genomic System Engineering.”

An upcoming research program, he said, will be a state-supported genomics of plant water use program.

“The program will provide much-needed preliminary data for AgriLife and engineering faculty to explore ways to improve plant water use across the state using the latest in next generation sequencing technologies and bioinformatics methodologies,” Johnson said.

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[via AgriLife Today | Ultramodern genetic sequencing machine puts research in high gear at Texas A&M]

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